Proper Form for
How much can you
lift? This is a very common, but really
irrelevant question for most people. Unless you are a
powerlifter where the amount of weight that you lift is what
drives the competition, what is beneficial to most people is not
heavy weight, but that the weight "feels" heavy. This is
the point where you need to check your ego at the door, drop the
amount of weight that you have been jerking, arching, and
swinging to get up, and get back to the root of the exercise by
learning and performing it with perfect form!
You might learn weight training techniques by watching
friends or others in the gym. But sometimes what you see isn't
safe. Incorrect weight training technique can lead to sprains,
strains, fractures and other painful injuries that may hamper
your weight training efforts.
You also may not be targeting the
muscle group you're intending to work as well if you are
cheating and not using proper lifting form. Using too much
weight and not getting full reps won't work your muscles as
It's not how much weight you lift... you're form is more
important than the weight! When it comes to exercise, you want to work hard AND smart.
General Form Tips
The following are a list of tips that you should incorporate
into your typical workouts to help you focus on proper form.
Don't lift more than your muscles can handle with good
technique and control. Have
enough self-esteem to drop the amount of weight you are
If you're unable to maintain good form.
Eliminate extraneous body movement and momentum.
"Cheating" as it is often called, is responsible for more
injuries than perhaps any other cause. At the same time,
it provides little stimulus for new muscle growth.
for ways to maintain or increase tension on the muscles you
are training. In other words, don't let the muscle
relax or rest during the set. The easiest and most
common ways to maintain tension is to simply avoid locking out
your joints and stay in continuous motion by eliminating the
pause at the top and bottom of the motion.
Lift slowly and gradually, don't jerk the weights when
lifting. Move the weight
in an unhurried, controlled fashion to maintain good control
and muscle tension. Taking it slow helps you isolate the muscles
you want to work and keeps you from relying on momentum to lift
- You might be
tempted to hold your breath while you're lifting weights.
Don't. Holding your breath can lead to dangerous increases in
blood pressure in addition to increasing the risk of injuries
such as a hernia. Exhale when you lift the weight, inhale when
you lower it.
- Prior to performing any lift, pull in your abdominal muscles
to stabilize your core.
Don't lift with your feet too close together. Stand with
your feet shoulder-width apart for stability.
Exercise Specific Form Tips
Although there are many
exercise specific tips, here are a few of the more common ones
that are well worth the review.
Don't lock out on leg presses or any other kind of press
including the shoulder and bench press. It's terrible for your
joints. (This does not include triceps exercises such as
pushdowns or dips).
Bending your knees too
deeply on leg presses can injure or damage your knees also. If you want
to do this exercise correctly, a good rule of thumb is to bend
your knee and hip to 90 degrees as your target.
your lower back off the incline bench or flat bench. When performing a bench
press (or most other supine exercies) remember the "5 point
contact rule". Focus on keeping your head, shoulders and
upper back, and butt in contact with the bench at all times,
and your right and left feet firmly planted on the ground.
Don't bounce the bar on your chest while bench pressing. You can crack a rib, damage you sternum or hurt
your pectoral muscles. In addition, the added momentum
that you gain will reduce the benefit that you are trying to
get in the first place.
Don't swing on
barbell curls. A lot of people have
heard of the "cheat curl". FYI: a cheat curl is
not a full body jerk!
Don't round your back on deadlifts.
proper deadlifting form you'll want to start the movement
by driving with the legs and the hips, and let your lower
back take care of the rest. If you only use your lower
back to deadlift you're shortchanging yourself.
In addition, whenever you are lifting weight with a
rounded back, you're doing something wrong.
When you perform
the upright row exercise where you pull your hands (carrying
the weight) up to your chin, you actually compress the nerves
in your shoulder area, impinging the shoulder. The
upright row is no longer recommended for this reason. A safer alternative
is to do front or lateral shoulder raises, or bent over rows.
Don't do the
"neck crunch." The crunch involves a contraction of your
entire torso, not just your neck. Don't lock your hands
behind your head and pull your head forward either. For
proper crunch form, I typically like to put my fingers on my
head lightly behind my ears for good form without the
temptation to crank on your neck.
using a weight belt unless necessary.
They should only be used when you're getting
85% to 90% of your one-repetition maximum.
Most people are not working at that level. Unless
you have a back injury or another medical reason to use the
belt, the level at which the
average person works doesn't require a weight belt. When the belt is on, you're not allowing your normal
core muscles to get strengthened. You'll never learn how to
use your natural belt, your core, the abs, obliques, and
typically think of cardio machines when discussing proper
form. However, exercising on the treadmill in a hunched-over position can
keep you from breathing deeply, and the improper
alignment of your spine can make the workout more jarring to
your shoulders and elbows. Use a natural gait, and don't hold the
handrails because it breaks the natural biomechanics of
the body. Reading is also discouraged while using the cardio
machines. When you're reading you're not
concentrating and getting a good workout. You're not
monitoring your progress. Exercise has to engage your head!
- Avoid straight bar exercises in
which the bar travels behind your head. This includes
lat pulldowns behind the neck as well as military presses
behind the neck.
shoulders aren't that flexible so the move can lead to
shoulder impingement or worse, a tear in the rotator cuff.
It is recommended to instead use your chest as a target for
the down position of these exercises.
A common fault of the squat exercise is when people try to
lift too much weight and don't get down to the point where
their legs are parallel to the floor. Not doing full reps
while squatting could be bad for your knees as you'll put a
lot of pressure on them by suddenly stopping half way down
with a heavy weight on your back. For proper squatting form
you should keep your lower back arched and avoid bending it.
You should also try not to let your knees bend forward in
front of your toes too much, so make sure to keep your hips
and butt back at the bottom of a squat.
Using the proper form while exercising can make the difference
between getting the maximum benefit from the exercises that you
are performing, and getting injured. When you're trying to make the most of limited exercise
time, the last thing you want to do is waste effort on
exercises that don't pay off. Remember, the more you concentrate on proper weight training
technique, the more you'll get from your weight training
Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!
Looks easy, right? Throwing around a big soft rubber
ball that doesn't really weigh a whole lot. So what if I
were to bring up the "V-up" exercise that many of you may know
about? Does that sound a little tougher? Well, the
ball exchange crunch is basically the same as a V-up, although
it requires you to focus on passing the ball from your hands
to your feet and back again. This focus helps you to
follow the exercise through the full range of motion and
maintain good form without cheating. If you don't crunch
your body fully, you won't be able to pass the ball back and
forth. Trust me, you won't look at that big soft rubber
ball the same way again!
abdominals (rectus abdominus)
Start by lying on your back with your feet extended and your
arms extended while holding the Stability Ball. While
keeping your arms and legs straight throughout the exercise,
simultaneously lift your legs and arms so that you meet in the
middle (your shoulders should come off the ground). Pass
the ball from your hands to your feet and lower your arms and
legs back to the ground (don't let the ball bounce).
Repeat the motion again, passing the ball back to your hands,
and returning to the starting position. That's one
Have Some Balls
A common question that people
ask me on a regular basis is regarding what type of exercise
equipment that they should buy for home use. When
starting out building a home gym, most people are typically
look for equipment that is versatile and can be used for
several exercises... without costing a fortune.
Swiss ball, resistance ball,
exercise ball, fitness ball, physio ball, balance ball,
stability ball... there are a multitude of names for this
handy, portable, and inexpensive exercise tool. In
addition, there are probably
hundreds of exercises that can be performed on a it!
The stability ball has become a very popular tool within the
clinical rehab setting and their versatility allows their
use with any population. Their effectiveness in
developing balance and core strength has also earned them a
spot in the world of athletic and functional conditioning.
The history of the stability
ball originates back to the early 1960's. It was made
by an Italian toy maker, Aquilino Cosani, and sold primarily
in Europe as the Gymnastik. In 1981 Cosani started a
new company, Gymnic. These two companies are still in
Italy and are the major suppliers of stability balls
throughout the world. The stability ball was
introduced to clinical application in the 1960's and has
slowly made its way to the fitness and athletic arena with
increased popularity in the last decade.
A properly sized stability
ball will allow you to sit on it with you knees and hip at
90 degrees and your thighs parallel to the floor. However,
there are size recommendations based upon the height of the
30 cm (11.8")
45 cm (17.7")
4'6" - 5'0"
55 cm (21.6")
5'1" - 5'7"
65 cm (25.5")
5'8" - 6'1"
75 cm (29.5")
6'2" - 6'7"
85 cm (33.5")
6'7" and up
Although there are guidelines
for proper sizing of stability balls, using different size
balls will allow you more flexibility and variation with
your Stability Ball training.
Stability balls can be used
in place of a bench for many exercises, they are an
excellent tool to supplement bodyweight exercises, they
serve as an unstable surface for balance and functional
training, and much more.
There are plenty of great
youtube videos that will
demonstrate countless stability ball exercises that you
could use to supplement resistance training or flexibility
workouts. Keep your goals in mind when looking for
exercises as one size does not fit all. If you are
interested in more information, check out
Ridgeline Fitness or just
search for it on youtube. There are a wide variety of
challenging stability ball exercises with excellent video
quality and they also have DVDs available. Great
Whether you have a full home
gym or you are just looking to get a quick workout without a
lot of equipment, there is really no reason why everyone
shouldn't have a stability ball. In addition to using
them during my workouts, I actually replaced my office chair
with one! It's a great way to work your core
throughout the day!
July 4th is a few days away so
that makes this Independence Month! Independence is
partially defined as "freedom from control and influence".
I can think of a few things that you can do to take control
of your life, at least from a health and fitness standpoint.
It's very easy to let your surroundings, schedule, and
relationships drive your decisions and habits. It
might be a challenge, but if it is important to you, you
have the power to make decisions that are best for you and
that support your goals!
There are obviously good and bad
influences that have an affect on us all. The good ones
we'll keep, so let's just focus on the bad ones for now.
If you do not have the discipline to face these bad influences
and still make the right decisions, then your best bet would be
to avoid the temptation or situation.
Sure, avoiding the bad influence is
not as easy as it sounds. This can mean shopping
differently, staying away from some of your favorite
restaurants, and even distancing yourself from some "friends" if
they have habits or attitudes that are a conflict of interest.
July is not the only month to have freedom from these
influences... in order to be truly successful you will need to
continue to make conscious choices on a regular basis.
What are the bad influences in your life?
For prior issues of this
newsletter go to
"Go BIG or Go Home"
youtube video of the month -->
This is the best parkour (free running) video that I have
seen on youtube. Not the greatest quality but it is